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JUNE 10 - JUNE 18, 2014

Ormsby Files Age Discrimination Complaint
Human Rights Commission expands it to include council majority

By Mike Hudson

June 10, 2014

Kevin Ormsby, too old?

An age discrimination complaint filed by former City Council secretary Kevin Ormsby, age 61 at the time of filing, against the city of Niagara Falls has been amended by the New York State Division of Human Rights to include councilmembers Charles Walker, Kristin Grandinetti and Andrew Touma as respondents.

They are the three councilmembers who voted to hire a much younger man to the position.

Actually, Ormsby was fired by Walker and Touma on Dec. 30. In front of witnesses, at the offices of the City Council, Walker allegedly said to Ormsby that Grandinetti was to have dismissed him days earlier, but that she failed to do so.

"It's startling when you consider that Charles Walker is a leader in the African-American community and Kristen Grandinetti is an advocate for women/human rights and yet neither of them recognized their discriminatory behavior," Ormsby told the Niagara Falls Reporter.

Ormsby was fired to make room for 24-year-old Ryan Undercoffer. Undercoffer, according to members of the City Democratic Committee, is a close friend of Chairwoman Alicia Laible who made no bones about wanting Ormsby fired and Undercoffer hired.

Undercoffer secured the position without a formal interview, job posting or disclosure of his resume, all the things that Ormsby had to undergo before being named council secretary a year earlier.

Kristen Grandinetti told the Buffalo News the council needs a “young fresh face.”

Walker reportedly told Councilman Glenn Choolokian and former Councilman Sam Fruscione at a Dec. 23, 2013 meeting, that he was under pressure to dump Ormsby. Walker told the councilmen that he supported Undercoffer's hire and said the City Council office was going to move in a fresh, new direction for 2014.

It gets worse.

On Jan. 5 of this year, Walker told the Niagara Gazette that "Undercoffer was nominated because he is young… we were looking for someone who can help bring the council into the 21st century."

The next day, Grandinetti echoed Walker's statements on the pages of the Buffalo News.

"Grandinetti also said she thought it was an opportunity to bring in a 'young, fresh face' (Undercoffer) to the Council office," the News reported.

Now if you fail to understand the implication of these two councilmembers' statements, and how it is discriminatory, just substitute the word Jew, Christian, black, white, gay or heterosexual in place of the word youth and you'll get it.

The city, for its part, has vacillated in its characterization of what happened to Ormsby, with some officials saying that, as an "at-will" or exempt employee, he could be fired for any reason at any time and others taking the position that he voluntarily retired from his job.

The claim that Ormsby retired and was not fired was offered by Walker to the Niagara Gazette (Jan. 7, 2014) "…Walker denied that Ormsby was 'forced' to retire, saying in conversations with him before the start of the new year, the council's former chief of staff had indicated to him his intentions to file his retirement paperwork and move on."

Ormsby said, "For Charles to claim I had those conversations with him is simply dishonest. It never happened and he knows it. He fired me. Then he probed me to see if I was going to retire."

The city did not explain or defend the public remarks of council members Walker and Grandinetti in its response to the complaint filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

Ormsby said he is willing to let the state Division of Human Rights figure out what actually happened in his case.

"The Buffalo Office of the New York State Division of Human Rights has been professional, thorough, and respectful throughout this process," he said.

Despite his complaint, Ormsby – who served as Mayor Dyster's press secretary for five years and as the city council secretary for one year – says he isn't bitter.

"I'm never bitter, but I'm always determined," Ormsby said. "I've been incredibly blessed in surviving a forbidding cancer diagnosis and I've lived to see the birth of two beautiful granddaughters. I try every day to keep things in perspective. Having said that, I believe it's critical in a person's life to pursue what's right and to work hard to do what's right."

Charley Walker told the Niagara Gazette that the council needs someone “young.”





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